Police documents reportedly revealed links between Hezbollah and a Brazilian prison gang, providing further fodder for claims that the Islamic militia group has ties to criminal organizations in Latin America.
According to federal police documents obtained by O Globo, Lebanese traffickers linked to Hezbollah — who are based where the Brazilian, Paraguayan, and Argentine frontiers meet — have helped Brazilian prison gang the First Capital Command (PCC) obtain weapons. In exchange for protecting prisoners of Lebanese origin detained in Brazil, the Lebanese traffickers reportedly provide the PCC with access to international arms smuggling channels. Additionally, the documents reportedly said that the Lebanese traffickers helped sell C4 explosives that the PCC allegedly stole in Paraguay.
According to O Globo, the documents indicated that the association between Lebanese traffickers and the PCC began in 2006, but was only discovered by police in 2008.
InSight Crime Analysis
Allegations that Hezbollah has ties to criminals operating in the tri-border region date back to at least 2006, when the US Treasury Department identified nine individuals in the area accused of providing Hezbollah with financial and logistical support. Several of the individuals on the list were identified as drug traffickers and arms dealers, but according to the Treasury Department their support of Hezbollah was limited mainly to operating a fundraising network.
The Brazilian government has never officially confirmed the US Treasury Department’s assertions, but the documents obtained by O Globo indicate that the country’s police have also uncovered evidence linking Hezbollah to Brazilian groups. Allegations that Lebanese traffickers with ties to Hezbollah have helped the PCC obtain weapons and sell explosives are especially troubling, as they indicate that the Islamic group’s links in the country may go far beyond fundraising.
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There have been other reports of Hezbollah working with criminal groups in Latin America, but most appear to be largely unsubstantiated. In 2011, US authorities revealed an alleged plot by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards to pay Zetas members to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington DC, although as InSight Crime has previously noted, the story is not very convincing. US authorities have also accused a Lebanese man of selling cocaine to the Zetas and sending the profits to Hezbollah, and Israeli media reported in 2012 that the Islamic militia group had set up a training base in Nicaragua.